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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: REDUCING THE IMPACT OF INVASIVE WEEDS IN NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS RANGELANDS THROUGH BIOLOGICAL CONTROL AND COMMUNITY RESTORATION

Location: Pest Management Research Unit

Title: Annual cover crops do not inhibit early growth of perennial grasses on a disturbed restoration soil in the Northern Great Plains, USA

Authors
item Espeland, Erin
item Perkins, Lora -

Submitted to: Restoration Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 24, 2012
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Repository URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/56098
Citation: Espeland, E.K., Perkins, L.B. 2013. Annual cover crops do not inhibit early growth of perennial grasses on a disturbed restoration soil in the Northern Great Plains, USA. Restoration Ecology. 31(1): 69-78.

Interpretive Summary: In agricultural, rangeland, and forest system revegetation projects, cover crops are used to stabilize soil and to reduce weeds. When cover crops are utilized to control weeds, these cover crops may also limit the establishment of desirable grasses. In this project, we tested if the presence of an annual grass cover crop reduces the early stage performance of sown perennial grasses. We conducted four experiments to evaluate the affects of annual cover crops on perennial grasses. Annual cover crops only reduced perennial grass productivity in a growth chamber experiment in a farm soil. A field experiment in farm soil showed no reduction in perennial grass growth. Soil collected from a trenched pipeline was high in sulfur and sodium. Even when this soil was fertilized, annual cover crops did not reduce perennial grasses. In stressful environments, or when there is natural microenvironmental variability, annual cover crops do not appear to be costly for the early-stage establishment of more long-term, desirable species. Trenching soil and mixing soil horizons may create stressful conditions for plants that limit rangeland productivity.

Technical Abstract: In agricultural, rangeland, and forest system revegetation projects, cover crops are used for competitive exclusion of weeds and to stabilize soil. Within revegetation projects, annual or short-lived perennial grasses are often sown at the same time as the perennial grasses that are the desired species for long-term landscape rehabilitation. When cover crops are utilized to control weeds, the same principle of competitive exclusion may apply to sown perennial grasses. In this project, we tested if the presence of an annual grass cover crop reduces the early stage performance of sown perennial grasses. We conducted four experiments to evaluate the affects of annual cover crops on perennial grasses. The experiments included ex situ growth chamber experiments in two soil types: an agronomic soil and soil collected from a revegetation project in a trenched water pipeline in western North Dakota. We also performed two in situ experiments where the presence of annuals was manipulated. Annual cover crops only reduced perennial grass biomass ex situ in the agronomic soil. The disturbed pipeline soil was high in sulfur and sodium. Even when this soil was fertilized, annual cover crops did not reduce sown perennial performance. In stressful environments, or when there is natural microenvironmental variability, annual cover crops do not appear to be costly for the early-stage establishment of more long-term, desirable species.

Last Modified: 9/1/2014
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